Bunhill: Squashed carrots

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The Independent Online
AMONG the Pantheon of Second World War heroes that adorned Bunhill's youth, none was more intriguing than 'Cats' Eyes' Cunningham. Group Captain John Cunningham was a night fighter pilot whose prowess at bringing down the Hun was, the people were told, due to his prodigious consumption of carrots. In fact this was a double-edged wheeze by the Propaganda ministry. It disguised the fact that his squadron was the only one to carry airborne radar; and it was also designed to persuade people they should eat carrots.

But there was more truth than most in this disinformation - carrots are full of goodness. Which explains why, when you ask for juice in California, you automatically get carrot juice.

George Robinson, a 26- year-old contemporary art dealer with a degree in industrial design, wondered why you couldn't get fresh carrot juice in Britain. The art market had collapsed, so he spent 18 months looking for the best carrot- squashing equipment. He ended up designing his own, and the Yorkshire engineers that built it said they would wait for payment until the juice was flowing.

The pounds 250,000 factory is now up and running in Bilsthorpe, Nottinghamshire mining country. Mr Robinson employs four ex-miners and hopes to build up to 15. Applicants should beware: a condition of employment is that they like carrot juice.

The juice is distributed by Leisure Fine Food and Drinks, and is working its way through the up-market grocers of London. 'It's selling extremely well - we offer samples, to try to change people's pre-conceived idea of carrot juice. They often think it's not their cup of tea.'

He is not, however, selling it as a health drink. 'If you say to Americans it's healthy, they will buy it,' he says. 'But if you do that in Britain, they ask questions. So I just say it's delicious.' An informal tasting at Chateau Bunhill was not so sure - though there was a consensus that it was just like liquid carrot.

Carrots can be picked in Britain 46 weeks of the year, and are turned into juice within five hours. 'You have to have the right kind of carrots,' Mr Robinson says. He buys his from Lincolnshire. Many of them come from Swinderby - one of the biggest RAF bases during the war. Maybe they didn't have radar after all?

JONATHAN ROSS, the man with two Ws in his alphabet, was master of ceremonies at the glitzy launch of travel group First Choice (nee Owners Abroad) on Tuesday. Did he do this sort of thing often, he was asked. 'Oh yes, especially for Canon,' he said. 'But I was crushed when I asked why they kept using me.' Nothing to do with his wit or suavity, it seems. They just liked the way he pronounced the name of their arch rival - Rank Xerox.

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